English Test 116
Directions for Questions from 1 to 5:
The painter is now free to paint anything he chooses.. There are scarcely any forbidden subjects, and today everybody is prepared to admit that a
painting of some fruit can be as important as a painting of a hero dying. The Impressionists did
as much as anybody to win this previously unheard-of freedom for the artist. Yet, by the next generation, painters began to abandon the subject
altogether, and began to paint abstract pictures. Today the majority of pictures painted are abstract.
Is there a connection between these two developments? Has art gone abstract because the artist is embarrassed by his freedom? Is it that,
because he is free to paint anything, he doesn't know what to paint? Apologists for abstract art often talk
of it as the art of maximum freedom. But could this be the freedom of the desert island? It would take too long to answer these questions properly.
I believe there is a connection. Many things have encouraged the development of abstract art. Among
them has been the artists' wish to avoid the difficulties of finding subjects when all subjects are equally possible.
I raise the matter now because I want to draw attention to the fact that the painter's choice of a subject is a far more complicated question than it
would at first seem. A subject does not start with what is put in front of the easel or with something which
the painter happens to remember. A subject starts with the painter deciding he would like to paint such-and-such because for some reason or
other he finds it meaningful. A subject begins when the artist selects something for special mention.
(What makes it special or meaningful may seem to the artist to be purely visual-its colours or its form.) When the subject has been selected, the
function of the painting itself is to communicate and justify the significance of that selection.
It is often said today that subject matter is unimportant. But this is only a reaction against the excessively literary and moral